Will you see it on July 17? The biggest mystery around Tenet has nothing to do with espionage, reverse-time-travel, or inversion. The enigma lies with its release date. COVID-19 has shut down theaters for almost two full months now. Blockbusters such as No Time To Die, Black Widow, and Fast 9 pushed back their release dates to the end of the year and in Fast 9‘s case, 2021. However, the one film that’s stood its ground is Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which is scheduled to open on July 17.

But will it really open on July 17? Nolan has been adamant about keeping the film in theaters and some view Tenet as the movie to reopen the box office. With an estimated budget of $200 million, Tenet will not go directly to VOD. The latest trailer made that clear when the words “Coming To Theaters” flashed across the screen. For Tenet to even open, it will need a domestic release of at least 3.5k theaters.

Let’s say everything goes according to plan and Tenet hits theaters in mid-July. Would you go to the theater to see Tenet? Not only are people contemplating this dilemma, but executives at Warner Bros. are debating that same question. Let’s make the case for and against going to the theater.

John David Washington in Tenet


It’s A Christopher Nolan Movie

Hundreds of directors release movies every year, but how many of those films become cultural phenomenons and box office sensations without famous IP attached like Marvel or Star Wars? Only two names come to mind: Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino. With all due respect to Tarantino, he’s a distant second behind Nolan in terms of box office gross from original ideas. You could argue for James Cameron as well, but he’s only released 1 film since 1997 so it’s hard to judge the Avatar director against Nolan, who’s released 10 features in that same time frame.

Nolan is arguably the only director who can “eventize” his movies. He’s a true blockbuster auteur. A Christopher Nolan film becomes a topic of cultural discussion for weeks on end. Cinephiles seek out Nolan’s films and show up to the theater in masses, which is rare in today’s streaming world. Think about this. Besides Memento, every other Nolan movie released in the 21st century has grossed over $100 million. Take away his Dark Knight trilogy. Inception, Interstellar, and Dunkirk all grossed over $500 million worldwide. That’s insane considering how hard it is to find success at the box office without involvement from superheroes, Dominic Toretto, or Disney characters.

The Mystique Of A Christopher Nolan Film

Gun to your head, could you successfully explain the basic synopsis of Tenet? Nolan’s latest film covers espionage and reverse-time-travel, right? Here’s a synopsis from Warner Brothers:

“John David Washington is the new Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi action spectacle “Tenet.” Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time. Not time travel. Inversion.”

Does that even help? Part of the reason why Nolan’s films are so beloved revolves around the film’s mystique and mystery. To say Nolan keeps plot information, casting updates, and character details close to his chest would be an understatement. It’s easier to explain the ending of Inception than it is to learn about Nolan’s characters and plot pre-release. This secrecy gives his films a “must-see” aspect in order to discover the unknown and avoid spoilers on the Internet.



Thank you, Captain Obvious. However, it can’t be understated that the world is in the middle of a global pandemic. There are still hundreds of safety concerns that frankly, won’t be answered between now and July 17. These are all questions that need to be asked as states gradually open their movie theaters. People want things to get back to normal, and slowly but surely, they will. However, the threat of contracting a virus should be at the bottom, not the top, viewers’ minds going into a theater. In 2020, it’s quite the opposite.

Theaters Are (Kind Of) Closed

It’s a scary time to own a movie theater. The rules and regulations inside movie theaters are about to change. Will theater attendees need to wear a mask? How many viewers will be allowed in each theater? Will the theaters be cleaned regularly? According to NBC, expect to wear a mask. Theaters will most likely open at 50% capacity to begin. How will ticketing and concessions be handled? Will online purchases be the only ticketing option? There seem to be more questions than answers. By the fall, theaters should have a solid plan in place, but in an unpredictable world, can they be fully ready to go by July 17?

Final Answer

Weighing all of the concerns, I would go to the theater to see Tenet. Nolan is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. I see his movies on the opening weekend. I’m willing to take the risk and will carefully follow every rule imposed by the theater. However, fans are not going to have to make a decision anytime soon. Due to the concerns from the virus and the fact that many theaters may not be open in July, Tenet will most likely move back towards the latter half of 2020 or the summer of 2021. If theaters in Los Angeles or New York City, which have 30 of the top 100 grossing theaters in North America, remain closed for the near future, Warner Bros. is not going to release Tenet on July 17. Maybe Nolan can apply what he’s learned about time travel to the current world and make the world normal again.

Will you see Tenet if it open on July 17? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

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